husband, Richard Baker;
daughter, two step-daughters & families
State of Michigan, Labor Department;
Lansing School District
Ingham County Commission, 12 years
My many years as a working professional in State Government, in the classroom and on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners gives me an edge over my opponent.
I enjoy the work of county government.
The voters of Ingham County approved a Parks and Trails millage in November 2014. This millage is going toward improving our existing parks and trails, and creating new segments of trails. I welcome all readers to go to Hawk Island County Park on the south side of Lansing where there is a newly resurfaced 1.5 mile trail around the lake. This trail was resurfaced this summer with the millage money.
The quality of roads in Ingham County and the entire State of Michigan are in unacceptable condition. Finally the legislature has made a minimal effort to add additional money for road improvements. The money will slowly begin coming into our county in January 2017. It is adequate enough for our Ingham County Road Department to start to improve our primary roads over the next several years. It is not sufficient enough to come into our neighborhoods and begin to repair interior roads.
For years now our roads have had minimal repairs, and even with the new State funding it's not enough to bring all roads into quality status.
I absolutely support raising enough money to bring all Michigan roads to a quality level and to provide for ongoing maintenance. Michigan used to have great roads; I'd like to see us have great roads again.
This can only be achieved by increasing taxes and dedicating the money to roads.
County government provides safety for citizens; the Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the Sherrif's Department, the jail, the 55th District Court, and the Ingham County Circuit Court are all provided by county funding. County government provides for the well being of our citizens with an excellent Health Department that monitors food establishments, environmental concerns, communicable diseases, and provides health promotion and prevention, and excellent health clinics.
There are many services the county provides primarily dictated by statute.
We are not equipped to provide additional services unless additional funding is provided to perform them.
The role of county and city government is shrinking due to lack of sustainable funding. County and city government exists throughout the United States. Township government only exists in Michigan.
I live in and represent Southern Meridian Township, which is a very welcoming and wonderful community in which to live. However, the township form of government is unique to Michigan.
The primary issue facing Ingham County is our structural deficit. The projected deficit for 2017 is $5,000,000. We will be eliminating positions as they become vacant due to lack of sustainable funding.
Counties and cities throughout the State of Michigan are all in a similar position. Ingham County is not unique, except for the fact that over the years we have had sufficient fund balances (rainy day funds or savings) that have allowed us to weather the 2008 great recession, and the subsequent years. We are now at the point where fund balance can no longer be used and postions will be eliminated.
Property tax revenue is starting to increase but due to State law (the Headlee Amendment), we have a cap on increasing property taxes as the values of homes increase. Our property tax revenues are very much in decline.
Secondly, the State of Michigan is not sharing tax revenue (Revenue Sharing) at a rate they originally promised.
Thirdly, counties are being asked to cover future expenses for retirees pensions and health benefits at a rate that is unrealistic.
These are all new developments that make sustaining county and city governments in Michigan challenging.
All county services related to the safety and well being of our citizens; some of which I have mentioned above.
I can't think of any. We already eliminated the Office for Young Children, a few years back. This office did training and monitored day care centers in our County. I think it's unfortunate we don't have that office any longer. We also eliminated the Sheriff's out-county road patrol. We also eliminated our past pension benefit which provides a sufficient pension to our retirees and substituted a less substantial retirement benefit.
All regrettable but necessary to balance the county budget.
At this point there are no new millages being proposed. I have no new millage I am proposing or supporting.
Okemos High School; Michigan State University
Dr. David Pawsat- Father; Dr. Clara Regal- Mother; Natalie Pawsat- Sister
Bagger at Meijer; Administrative Assistant at the Center for Optimal Health; Strategic Support Associate at Jackson National Life Insurance
President of Michigan State's Turning Point USA; Youth outreach activist at Ingham County Republican Party and other local GOP entities
Being raised in Ingham County, it has made me see the things that are needed to keep Ingham County a great place to live. This puts me in an advantage over my opponent because I have seen all sides of the situation; as a child in school, a young professional and as a neighbor’s perspective on what Ingham County is doing right. It is time to bring a new voice to the table and I am ready to stand up for the people to do what is right. We have to fight for tomorrow - not just today - which is why it is important that our tax dollars are used efficiently now. It is time that we have elected officials that are accountable to the taxpayers.
Spending money on parks efficiently should be Ingham County’s goal. Currently, the County has a millage for parks and trails. While speaking with the people of my district, many of them have expressed to me this milage is too high for them. It is time we listen to the concerns of our citizens. The County needs to be using our taxes in a more educated way to preserve the great service the parks provide; not reach deeper into the pockets of the taxpayer.
People have long been disgusted by the roads in Michigan. When driving down Okemos Road, you can not deny there are potholes everywhere and the people are fed up with this. It is a constant burden on daily commutes and causing unnecessary damage to our vehicles. Our resources need to be reallocated to fix this problem. Roads need to be a priority.
When a family faces an emergency, they are forced to come up with funds to pay for that emergency. This often means reworking their budget to make sure they can still make ends meet. This is what has happened with our roads in Ingham County. We are at a point where we are in an emergency and they need to be fixed. However, we have to be willing to compromise to rework our budget so we don’t have to levy another tax on the citizens.
The most pressing issues are accountability and transparency. The Commission needs to be more in touch with the citizens and it is important that County Commissioners take a hands on approach in their communities. Since starting my campaign for office, I have made a point to knock on all the doors in my district and take the time to talk to all of my future constituents. It is important that as a County Commissioner, one takes into account what the people in Ingham County need for their future success.
Making government run more efficiently with the least amount of money is what is key. Associating a term like ‘growing’ or ‘shrinking’ the government takes the idea of efficiency out of the picture when really what we need to be focusing on is having government work for everyone. Sometimes new programs are needed to accommodate new issues and problems. Not all new programs are bad and not all old programs are good. The bottom line is having programs that people benefit from.
It is important that the Commission sticks to what it is meant to do. We have a job to fulfill and it is important that we do what we are supposed to do - not stepping on the toes of other government entities like City or State government. County government exists to make sure there is funding for the County Sheriff, County Road Commission and County Parks.
Smarter tax use: Ingham County needs to make sure that all taxes are being used effectively. This means creating the most efficient and accountable use of our taxes.
More accountability and transparency: The Commission needs to be more in touch with their voters. It is important that County Commissioners take a hands on role in their communities.
Creating a more business friendly culture: We can create a business friendly culture by lowering taxes to promote business growth which will result in new jobs and opportunities. Ingham County needs to maintain good infrastructure and services to attract people to the area as well.
The State and County each have specific responsibilities they need to do. For the County, this means providing its local citizenry the services it has been tasked with. For example, the County Sheriff, County Parks and County Roads. If the County starts stepping out of their realm, it could result in the misuse of taxpayer dollars. The County needs to protect its taxpayers and use their money on the programs it was designed to provide.
Funding the Sheriff’s department is essential in keeping Ingham County safe. The County needs to make sure there is a Sheriff who is well resourced so this safety is possible.
The local parks are a very important asset to Ingham County as they help create a sense of community. Having nice parks will attract more people to Ingham County and allow for businesses to grow and become more successful. A great parks and recreation service will help aid in this effort.
The key services that the Ingham County Commission funds are all vital to the County and their success. However, it is time that we look at all the money being spent and make sure that it is being used in the best way possible. Saying that it is time to cut spending on all programs is not the answer yet we need to fund programs in a way to make them more efficient. Spending in the County is going to be a balancing act and each essential program must be funded properly.
By being in County Government there is specific areas that we are supposed to focus on. Just like Federal, State, and Local government all have areas they focus on, it is important we remember what County responsibilities are and not over step them. If there is something that comes up in the future that specifically impacts the County, then it is something which should be considered.
The taxes in Ingham County are very high right now. In the time I’ve spent talking with citizens in my district, everyone can see this is hurting families. It is imperative that we work on making government work more efficiently so that we are not continuing to put such a heavy tax burden on the people.